The results of a national Catholic evangelisation project published today (Thursday) give a unique insight into what is attracting people to the Catholic Faith.
Beauty and art, using Catholic signs and symbols; use of everyday language and offering opportunities for a one-to-one with someone of faith, are just some of the simple and effective means and methods of evangelisation that have been identified through the work of the ‘Crossing the Threshold’ project.
An initiative of the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, chaired by Bishop Kieran Conry, the project was set up to explore ways that ministry and outreach to non-churchgoing Catholics could be developed.
Bishop Conry explained: “We know from our work that many people would like to reconnect with their Catholic practice, but sometimes they perceive that even trivial obstacles prevent them from taking this step. A recurrent concern among mass-going Catholics is how to reach out to them – family members and friends – who seem distant from the life of the Church and faith.
“This project tries to positively identify simple and practical ways that we can help, and it has received a significant amount of interest. The sensitive and careful work being done seems to suggest really clear and everyday things we can do together to encourage reconnection.”
Today the results of the two latest expressions of this project are being published: highlights of initial findings from a new case study of Catholic parents who send their children to Catholic schools, but have little to no contact with their local parish; and the results of a parish-based pilot project which aimed to support the setting up of parish evangelisation teams.
Dr Ann Casson, who conducted the case study, said: “Although only a modest sample group took part in the research – 39 parents participated in an in-depth face-to-face interview and a further 107 completed a short qualitative questionnaire – what came out very strongly is that, even if people only occasionally attend Mass, they feel that their lives are enriched by the Catholic Faith. They are also keen for their primary school age children to experience that richness, too, in a variety of different ways.
“The tone of the responses received was very positive and initial analysis of the data suggests some clear practical ways that the Church can support parents in their faith.”
Alongside the case study carried out over the past year, the Bishops’ Conference Home Mission Desk has been working with diocesan and parish teams in the Nottingham Diocese to explore what kind of outreach activities appeal to those who have little to no contact with parish life.
Five teams across the diocese engaged in a breadth of activities including: parish census work, prayer initiatives, exhibitions, craft days, seasonal outreach events (especially at Christmas and Easter), using sacramental preparation as an opportunity to reach out to parents, and organising social gatherings to celebrate cultural diversity.
All the participating parishes reported that Mass attendance had increased, with one parish reporting a doubling of Mass attendance at Easter. All the teams saw people return to the practice of their faith, it helped to create a culture of evangelisation in the parish and parishioners’ confidence to evangelise increased.
Nanette Brown, from St Mary-on-the-Sea Parish in Grimsby, which saw a doubling in Easter attendance, said: “It’s been a wonderful experience. We’ve learnt to offer simple things creatively and well, and people have responded. It’s not complicated, but what perhaps was stopping us trying something like this before was confidence. If our little parish can do it, any parish can.”
The ‘Crossing the Threshold’ project has also included: the creation of a national core group for this area of ministry; the organisation of a diocesan leaders’ day; a national resource tour covering six locations; the offering of new materials about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the creation of new multi-media resources.
The full complement of materials is gradually being published online at: www.cbcew.org.uk/home-mission
The results of the two most recent parts of the project are being published to coincide with Home Mission Sunday, which is on September 21. On this day the Bishops of England and Wales will invite parishes to pray for and celebrate the work of evangelisation.
For more information and resources about the Sunday please see: www.catholicnews.org.uk/hms14